Julia grew up skiing, camping, and climbing in the mountains of Wyoming and sailing, sea kayaking, and tide pooling along the coast of Maine. She studied biology and environmental studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. As an undergraduate, she studied fungal ecology and soil chemistry in the Pacific Northwest old growth forests. Her work focused on how symbiotic relationships between trees, mushrooms, and soil bacteria drive ecosystem-level processes. This research in microbial ecology has brought her to remote corners of the world, including the rainforests of New Zealand, Patagonia, Ecuador, and Alaska.